The house of paper stood, tall and proud and shining in the centre of the city. It was taller than all of the other little houses. It had three floors, and each floor had three windows, and on top it had three chimneys each with a long white plume of shredded paper smoke drifting up and out of it.
The house of paper was a new thing.
The villagers had come out of their little cottages one day and it had been there, in the middle of the green. This was when it was only a short story tall. At first they had gathered around it, a little bit worried. It was very white and very square and very official. No one liked to look at it too long.
Nothing bad seemed to happen, and the villagers started to get used to the strange building.
After a few weeks, everyone felt as though the house of paper had always been there. The villagers would pull out a piece and use it to write a memo, or post a sign on the tall, papery walls. Sometimes the posters were kind- more often they were stern.
The house of paper seemed to grow.
When the dogs howled and barked in the night, and when the neighbours yelled and threw their things about, the house of paper would grow a layer and the Mayor would post a sign, and in the night there was a curfew and no one went outside. The dogs stopped barking and the neighbours still yelled – but they yelled “the neighbours can hear you!” so that seemed to be okay.
The house of paper did not seem to dull. The villagers would often find a use for paper now. They wrote lists of food or tasks or rules. They made paper planes and signed forms that said “I belong to him” and sold all their things with little tiny papers that said so, so it was. Paper had meaning for the villagers- and so they read and tore it and wrote on it and made with it, but always it was used and always, when it was useless, they would take it back to the house of paper and throw the remnants onto the roof and walk away.
In the morning, the discarded paper was always gone.
The house of paper had no doors. The windows were papered with shutters, but the shutters were postered over. Sometimes, when the villagers had a note that said ‘you must’, they would not want to do. So they would take it to the house of paper and, looking about, they would lift a little corner of a paper poster and slip the note in, through the slats on the shutters, and hear it drop, rustling, inside the house. If they listened, straining, they might hear a sound like little feet. But then it would fade, and the poster would be smoothed down over the gap, and the villagers would look around and pat the house of paper, and walk away. The house of paper would never tell.
When the house of paper began to smoke, the villagers barely noticed. At first it was like a little layer of dust- so fine, barely noticeable really. But after a week, with the soft shreds of torn messages, angry accusations and sad love letters pattering in quiet little sighs on every roof and garden and front step, the villagers could not ignore the house of paper any more. At first, when the notes and notices of hidden lives fell, the villagers were angry. They said- torch the house! They said- how dare it tell! The house of paper had been their confidante, why would it betray them? The villagers began to hate the house of paper.
In the middle of the night, the house of paper trembled, little drifts of shredded paper ash falling in tiny piles from the third-floor eaves.
There was no one in the street- the Major had made a decree!
There was no one at their window- the neighbours might see.
There was no one around, and no one to hear, and one to watch in awe and a little bit of sadness.
But when the villagers went to the village green in the morning, the house of paper was gone.
When the village became a city, they still remembered the house of paper. They called that intersection Paper Street and Whitehouse Lane and they put up photos of the house of paper, with their big grins and their old world cottages in the background. The villagers said they had made the house of paper- that it started off as just a one discarded story, and grew.
But, somewhere up in the hills the house of paper still lingered. The crowd of their thoughts and secrets drifted over the city. Soon, the villagers would write and rip and tear and make with paper again. And, sometimes a stray list or smudged sketch would roll away in the night.
And not long after, the house of paper would puff and clouds of words would fall.
By Danielle K. Day
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